On December 13, 2017, the US Tax Court (Tax Court) held that a family office was appropriately treated as a business, and permitted to deduct its expenses pursuant to Internal Revenue Code (Code) Section 162. In Lender Management LLC v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2017-246, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) argued that the taxpayer’s expenses should be properly claimed pursuant to Code Section 212 because the family office was not a business for federal income tax purposes, and instead its expenses were merely costs of its investment activities. Whether or not a family office is a business is important because deductions under Code Section 212 are substantially limited.
The taxpayer was the family office to the Lender’s Bagels fortune. It was owned by two Lender family trusts. In 2010 and 2011, the taxpayer reported net losses on its returns and reported net income in 2012 and 2013. The taxpayer provided direct management services to three limited liability companies (LLCs), each of which elected to be treated as a partnership. The owners of the LLCs were the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of the founder.